We've heard of steroid scandals in professional sports, but what about Hollywood? Tobey Maguire and Brad Pitt could not get into ripped shape in such a ridiculously short period of time without a little more help than egg whites and bench presses, right?

By: Dave, New York

A.B. Replies: The more people who gaze at photos of Brad Pitt's abs, cut like diamonds as they are, the more questions I get about whether they're really cubic zirconia. A field trip to Madame Tussauds may be in order. Let us make a pilgrimage unto it, and probe the new wax model of Pitt for signs of steroid needles, or maybe some overly happy liposuction tubes. The Tussauds sculptors pride themselves on realistic detail, after all, so we shall be greeted as fellow educators.

Here's what I can say, in general terms, about male stars who are over 30 and appear to be ripped like rabid wolverines: An increasing number of them are turning to artificial means to maintain that six-pack. However, those means usually do not entail steroids, according to experts in fitness, training and plastic surgery. Instead, say some of the more plugged-in plastic surgeons on both coasts, male stars are making very close friends with Mr. Fat Thirsty Tube, using liposuction to reveal the natural abdominal muscles underneath.

To be fair, most of your healthier male stars are also working out, chomping egg-white omelets and paying thousands of dollars to trainers. Or at least the stars' bosses--producers and studios--are paying the trainers. The lipo comes in when the star ages, and a slowing metabolism begins to take its terrifying toll.

"People of that ilk," says Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Randal Haworth, meaning actors over 30 who still have the defined abs of 20-year-olds, "usually have had some help, some surgical intervention."

That intervention can mean a simple pop 'n' suck or something more complicated called ab etching. This involves extra sucking where the six-pack indentations should be.

But steroids? Not so much. Remember, steroids make you bulky. Not a terribly desirable look among current male stars, who tend toward lean torsos and capable, but still reasonably small, arms. Even Spider-Man isn't all that ridiculously pumped--and he's made of pixels, so designers could (if they wanted to) blow Spidey up like Tiger Man.

The amped-up strongman build is so out of favor in Hollywood these days that brawny actors seem to have plenty of time on their hands. Lou Ferrigno, for example, is able to sit all day at a booth at a comic-book convention chatting with people like me. Which he did. Just last week.

As for younger stars, they seem to be doing it the old-fashioned way. Trainers and health journalists insist to this B!tch that a six-pack can be achieved, in a matter of weeks, with the right diet and exercise program. They point out that if a man has well-defined abs but gets a little slack, he can simply cut his carb and salt intake, swill a diuretic and essentially just wait for the definition to reemerge.

"Some may [exercise] two, three, four hours a day," says Janet Lee, an editor at Shape magazine, "including cardio and core strengthening moves, things that engage the entire torso.

"If you're working out six or seven days a week, you are going to see some type of change within a week, dropping a few pounds. And definitely in three or four weeks, you're going to see a huge change."

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